Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 45mm f/1.2 PRO lens

      Photo Review 8.9
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      In summary

      A very fast prime lens for M4/3 cameras, which provides an ideal focal length for portraiture and comes with weatherproof sealing.

      With a medium telephoto range, the M.Zuiko Digital ED 45mm f/1.2 PRO lens is ideal for portraiture, particularly when a shallow depth of field is desirable. Its size and weight make it best suited to the larger OM-D cameras, particularly the OM-D E-M1 Mark II, which we used for all of our tests. The wide maximum aperture enables it to be used in very low light levels without requiring a tripod, while its minimum focusing distance of 50 cm provides some scope for shooting close-ups.

      The MSC autofocusing mechanism is quiet enough to be used while shooting movie clips as well as being very fast. Outdoor photographers will also benefit from the dustproof and splashproof construction and the ability of the lens to function well in temperatures as low as -10 degrees Celsius.

       

      Full review

      Announced on 26 October, the M.Zuiko Digital ED 45mm f/1.2 PRO is one of two new weather-resistant  ‘PRO’ lenses for Olympus Micro Four Thirds System cameras (the other being the M.Zuiko Digital ED 17mm f/1.2 PRO lens). Both lenses join the M.Zuiko Digital ED 25mm f/1.2 PRO lens (reviewed in November 2016) to provide owners of OM-D and PEN cameras with a formidable trio of fast primes to cover popular focal lengths for different shooting genres.  

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      Angled view of the M.Zuiko Digital ED 45mm f/1.2 PRO lens without lens hood and end caps. (Source: Olympus.)

      All three lenses are developed with the similar design philosophies aimed at creating images with perceived depth through ‘feathered’ bokeh at the maximum f/1.2 aperture setting. Given the 2x crop factor applied by the M4/3 sensor, the 45mm lens is equivalent to a 90mm f/2.4 lens on a 35mm camera, making it ideal for portraiture.  The 17mm lens covers a modest 35mm f/2.4 wide angle of view, while the 25mm is equivalent to a 50mm f/2.4 standard lens. Like the 25mm f/1.2 lens, the 45mm f/1.2  lens provides a one stop faster alternative to the M.Zuiko 45mm f/1.8  lens, which was released in mid-2011 and which we haven’t reviewed. That lens is currently selling for roughly a quarter of the RRP of the 45mm f/1.2 PRO lens.
       

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      Cutaway view of the M.Zuiko Digital ED 45mm f/1.2 PRO lens showing its complex array of lens elements. (Source: Olympus.)

      The optical design of the 45mm f/1.2 PRO lens is slightly less complex than the 25mm f/1.2 PRO lens, with 14 elements in 10 groups (compared to 19 elements in 14 groups for the 25mm lens). Among them are four HR elements, along with one ED element and one aspherical element.  

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      The diagram above shows the positions of the exotic elements in the optical design of the  M.Zuiko Digital ED 45mm f/1.2 PRO lens. (Source: Olympus.)

      The ED lens suppresses axial chromatic aberration produced by out-of-focus colour spreading  as well as peripheral colour bleeding (magnification chromatic aberration), both common problems with wide-aperture lenses. Z Coating Nano lens coating minimises ghosting and flare to maintain image clarity.  

      Autofocusing is driven by a MSC mechanism that is optimised to work with the 121 point all-cross type On-chip Phase Detection AF sensor in the OM-D E-M1 Mark II. It provides silent and smooth focusing and aperture performance for capturing still images and movies and can make the best use of Face Priority or Eye Priority AF.  

      The Manual Focus Clutch mechanism found in all three lenses makes switching to manual focus quick and easy, while the L-Fn button on the lens barrel lets users pause autofocus and assign other camera body custom settings. This lens will focus to 50 cm with a maximum shooting magnification of 0.1x (35mm equivalent: 0.2x).

      No stabilisation is   built into the lens mechanism but the in-body 5-Axis Sync Image Stabilisation system in the Olympus OM-D and PEN cameras can provide up to 5.5 f-stops of shake compensation. The lens is supplied with a LH-66B lens hood, LC-62F front cap, LR-2 rear cap, LSC-0811 lens case, instruction manual and warranty card. A protection filter (PRF-ZD62 PRO) is available as an optional extra.

      Who’s it For?
      With a medium telephoto range, the M.Zuiko Digital ED 45mm f/1.2 PRO lens is ideal for portraiture, particularly when a shallow depth of field is desirable. Its size and weight make it best suited to the larger OM-D cameras, particularly the OM-D E-M1 Mark II, which we used for all of our tests. The wide maximum aperture enables it to be used in very low light levels without requiring a tripod, while its minimum focusing distance of 50 cm provides some scope for shooting close-ups.

      The MSC autofocusing mechanism is quiet enough to be used while shooting movie clips as well as being very fast. Outdoor photographers will also benefit from the dustproof and splashproof construction and the ability of the lens to function well in temperatures as low as -10 degrees Celsius.

      Like other Olympus lenses, this lens can also be used on Panasonic cameras. It would be best suited to the larger, more recent models with integrated image stabilisation like the DC-G9, DC-GH5, DMC-G85. DMC-GX8   and DMC-GX7.

      Build and Ergonomics
       This lens boasts a similar build quality to other lenses in the PRO series and, like those lenses it’s relatively large and heavy for an M4/3 lens. Overall construction is excellent and up to expectations for the price of the lens.

      With a barrel length of 84.9 mm and an overall weight of 410 grams it is similar in size to the M.Zuiko Digital ED 25mm f/1.2 PRO lens. Like that lens, it includes some fairly large glass elements and has a high percentage of metal in the barrel and mount.

      There’s only one main control surface: a 30 mm wide focusing ring that is located 22 mm behind the front of the lens. It carries three rows of finely-moulded ribbing to provide a secure and comfortable grip. As well as adjusting manual focus, this ring controls the clutch mechanism for AF/MF switching. Push it forward for autofocusing; pull it back to engage manual focus.

      The focusing ring rotates through 360 degrees in the AF position but turns through about 90 degrees in the MF position, with hard stops at each end of the range. Autofocusing is electronically controlled in Olympus cameras, which means there’s not much tactile feedback in the MF mode.

      A depth-of-field scale is stamped on the barrel just in front of the focusing ring. It’s visible in both AF and MF modes. Pulling the ring back to engage manual focus reveals a distance scale on the lens barrel.

      A Lens-Function (L-Fn) button is partially inset into the barrel behind the focusing ring. The default setting is to temporarily suspend autofocusing while being pressed, for example when an object passes through the field of view. However, it can be programmed via the camera to control a single camera function, making it instantly available when the button is pressed.

      The mounting plate is solid metal and chromed for durability. A line of 11 gold-plated contacts enables signals to pass between the camera and lens. The front of the lens is threaded to accept 62 mm filters and, because the lens doesn’t rotate during focusing, angle-critical filters can be used without requiring readjustment.

      The supplied hard plastic lens hood is  roughly 40 mm long and cylindrical in shape with fine ribbing on its inner surface. It has a locking clip and can be reversed onto the lens for storage.

      Performance
       All our test shots were taken with the lens on our OM-D E-M1 Mark II camera body, which was a good match for this lens. Subjective assessments of test shots showed them to be very sharp, even at the maximum f/1.2 aperture. The fast MSC autofocusing system and effective stabilisation in the E-MI Mark II enabled us to use the lens hand-held at very slow shutter speeds ““ as low as 1/10 second ““ and obtain a high percentage of sharp pictures.

      Our Imatest tests showed the lens could comfortably exceed expectations for the 20-megapixel resolution sensor in the E-MI II with measurements taken near the centre of the frame. Some edge softening was measured at all aperture settings and depth-of-field was very shallow at wider apertures.

      Nonetheless, edge resolution came acceptably close to expectations through most of the aperture range. Resolution also remained quite high from f/1.2 through to about f/8 where diffraction began to take effect. Interestingly, resolution was higher than expected at f/16, which will be appreciated by photographers who shoot with the lens stopped down.

      The highest resolution was obtained at f/2.0, which is a stop down from maximum aperture. The results of our Imatest tests are shown in the graph below.

       

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      Lateral chromatic aberration remained well within the ‘negligible’ band for all aperture settings, as shown in the graph of our test results below. The red line marks the boundary between ‘negligible’ and ‘low’ CA.

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      Because in-camera corrections are applied for both vignetting and rectilinear distortion, we had to analyse ORF.RAW files to see whether either issue was present. We found vignetting was negligible at the widest aperture settings and distortion was limited to barely visible pincushioning.

      The lens also handled backlit subjects very well. Although some flare and ghosting could be present in shots when a bright light source was within the image frame, we found no loss of contrast or colour saturation in normal shots with   relatively strong backlighting .

      The minimum focusing distance of 50 cm makes this lens usable for taking close-ups of objects that measure more than about 10 cm in length. The 9-bladed iris diaphragm produced attractive bokeh at wider apertures when there were no bright highlights in the background.

      However, we found some outlining of the brightest highlights in backlit close-ups. Fortunately, the overall bokeh quality was relatively smooth in subjects with average brightness ranges when apertures up to about f/4.5 were used. By f/5.6, background details had begun to intrude on overall smoothness.

      Conclusion
      The AU$1799 price tag puts the M.Zuiko Digital ED 45mm f/1.2 PRO lens squarely into the ‘premium’ product category. If you can’t afford the f/1.2 PRO lens, the   M.Zuiko Digital 45mm f/1.8 (which we haven’t yet reviewed) is only one f-stop slower. It is still listed in the M.Zuiko Premium line-up and typically sells for less than AU$500. It’s quite a bit smaller (56 x 46 mm) and weighs only 116 grams, which makes it easier to carry around.

      It’s not weatherproof and its optical performance may not be as good as the 45mm f/1.2 PRO lens. And it won’t provide such a shallow depth of focus.   But its field of view and minimum focusing distance are the same. If you utilise the in-camera corrections provided by recent Olympus cameras and take advantage of unsharp masking in post-capture editing, this lens should not disappoint.

      It’s early days for buying this lens and many online re-sellers (both local and offshore) still have it listed for pre-ordering. Consequently, it’s unreasonable to expect significant discounts at this stage. Nevertheless, you can expect to save up to AU$150 at some local re-sellers and maybe a bit more if you take shopping around seriously.

      Off-shore re-sellers have both the M.Zuiko Digital ED 45mm f/1.2 PRO lens and the M.Zuiko 45mm f/1.8 lens listed at what appear to be competitive prices. However, many will not ship these lenses to Australia. In addition, once you take shipping and insurance costs into account, any potential savings become less attractive. You also lose the benefits of warranty support and local consumer protection laws if you buy offshore.

       

      SPECS

       Picture angle: 27 degrees
       Minimum aperture: f/16
       Lens construction: 14 elements in 10 groups (including   one ED, four HR and one   aspherical elements)
       Lens mounts: Micro Four Thirds
       Diaphragm Blades: 9 (circular aperture)
       Focus drive: High-speed Imager AF (MSC)
       Stabilisation: No (relies on in-camera IS)
       Minimum focus: 50 cm
       Maximum magnification: 0.1x (35mm Equivalent Max. Image Magnification: 0.2x)
       Filter size:   62 mm
       Dimensions (Diameter x L): 70 x
       Weight:  410 grams
       Standard Accessories: LH-66B Lens Hood, LC-62F Lens Cap, LR-2 Lens Rear Cap, LSC-0811 Lens Case

       Distributor: Olympus Imaging Australia; 1300 659 678, www.olympus.com.au  

       

      TESTS

      Based on JPEG images captured with the lens on the OM-D E-M1 Mark II camera body.

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      SAMPLES  

       

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       Vignetting at f/1.2.
       

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       Vignetting at f/1.4.
       

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       Vignetting at f/1.8.
       

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       Rectilinear distortion.
       

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       Close-up at f/1.2; ISO 200, 1/2000 second.
       
       

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      Close-up of a printed graphic taken at f/2.8;ISO 200, 1/800 second.
       
       

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      Backlit close-up at f/1.2; ISO 200, 1/6400 second.
       

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      Close-up at f/1.4 showing smooth bokeh; ISO 200, 1/4000 second.
       
       

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      Backlit shot; ISO 200, 1/1250 second, f/1.2.
       
       

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      Crop from the above image at 100% magnification showing the relative absence of coloured fringing.
       
       

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      Hand-held shot taken at ISO 200, 1/20 second at f/1.4.
       
       

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      Hand-held shot taken at ISO 500, 1/10 second at f/3.2.
       
       

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      Hand-held shot taken at ISO 200, 1/10 second at f/3.2.
       
       

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      Hand-held shot taken at ISO 800, 1/25 second at f/3.5.
       
       

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      Hand-held shot taken at ISO 6400, 1/40 second at f/4.
       
       

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      ISO 3200, 1/60 second at f/5.
       
       

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      ISO 200, 1/6400 second at f/1.2.
       
       

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      ISO 125, 1/8000 second at f/1.2.
       
       

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      Normally backlit subject; ISO 200, 1/13 second at f/5.
       
       

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      ISO 200, 1/800 second at f/1.2.
       
       

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      ISO 200, 1/1600 second at f/1.2.
       
       

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      ISO 200, 1/400 second at f/4.5.
       
       

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      ISO 200, 1/40 second at f/9.
       

      Rating

      RRP: AU$1799; US$1199

      • Build: 9.0
      • Handling: 9.0
      • Image quality: 9.0
      • Versatility: 8.7

       

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